JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Florida school board has decided to end a decades-long controversy and rename a high school now named for a Confederate general and honorary Ku Klux Klan leader that some historical records say ordered the execution of hundreds of black Union soldiers.
The Duval County school board said it was following the will of its students Monday when it voted unanimously to change the name of Nathan B. Forrest High in Jacksonville. The change will take place next year once a new name is chosen, said Superintendent Nikolai Vitti.
"What I want is for students at Nathan Bedford Forrest to use this as a civics lesson," Vitti said. He said he hopes students realize that they can make a difference.
Vitti said a majority of students surveyed voiced support for dropping Forrest's name, given his history as a slave trader and some accounts that blame him for issuing an order to execute captured black Union soldiers.
Vitti said he will now conduct a survey to decide the school's new name. The school board is expected to decide the new name early next year.
"Everybody is glad about it," said De'jia Boatwright, a 10th grader.
About half of the faculty and a majority of alumni surveyed disagreed with the name change, but 64 percent of students at the black-majority high school were in favor of dropping the name. The school board said it based its decision on what the students wanted.
The name of the school has been a source of controversy for decades, with school officials continuously refusing to change it despite numerous protests.
Forrest High opened as an all-white school in the 1950s. Its name was suggested by the Daughters of the Confederacy, who saw it as a protest to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that eventually integrated public schools.